My heart journey began in November 2015: the physical part on November 27, the spiritual part, three weeks earlier. On November 6, around 10:00pm on a stretch of a highway a few hours from home, I prayed specifically for God to make my life matter in His Kingdom and pledged I would do anything to that end. Immediately, apprehensive tears streamed down my face as I realized the weight of that promise.
Less than a month later, I almost died from heart failure from an unknown cause: severe idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.
I soon learned I had an Ejection Fraction (heart function) of 8% and spent 14 days in the hospital, most of it in ICU, as doctors tried to save my life. All of this despite having no risk factors, no family history, low blood pressure, low cholesterol levels, and a recent medical evaluation declaring that I had less than 3% chance of ever developing heart disease.
I was emergency flighted to the Cleveland Clinic where I became my doctor’s most critical patient for 16 months. During that time, I wore a Life Vest external defibrillator, carefully titrated my numerous meds to maximum dosages, and eliminated sodium from my diet. I was eventually implanted with a Biventricular CRT-D, a combination pacemaker/internal defibrillator.
Meanwhile, thousands of people prayed for me around the clock despite a grim prognosis and sympathetic tears from every Doctor we encountered.
My carefully planned life had taken a major detour. This was not what I envisioned when I made that road-trip promise to God. As a committed Christian, my faith felt flimsy at that point. Even though I had been a believer for decades, or maybe because of that it seemed God had abandoned me. I felt I held up my end of the bargain and God had gone radio silent. Reluctantly, I started giving voice to my hard faith questions.
Some would say nothing much happened for many, many months, but the miracle was that I survived. peace enveloped my husband and I, and we help on tight and trusted. Against all medical odds, my heart function was initially restored on March, 27, 2017.
But that mountaintop wasn’t a permanent address for me.
Over the coming years, my heart function would drop again, several times. My journey is not over, the story is not fully written. Doctors believe I will someday need a heart transplant. Still, through it all, God has shown up countless times in and continues to walk with me, as I put my today and tomorrow in His tender, merciful hands, and wait for what is next. Through these ups and downs, I’ve gained an understanding of the goodness and mercy of our God. I have learned that He is in control even when my physical heart is failing and my spiritual heart is fading. And I have learned that He’s never dimmed by our doubt.
Heart failure is a chronic, progressive disease. There is no cure. For most, Doctors can manage the symptoms. For some, they can slow the progression. I still wrestle with my faith and it’s big promises, almost daily. But I have found that instead of threatening my belief, questions have actually strengthened it.
Here’s something I couldn’t have said with conviction when I was first diagnosed five years ago. I trust in God as a loving Father. If he chooses to normalize my heart and grant me years into old age, than may He receive all the glory and praise. If God has a different story that He is writing, I pray I can endure that journey with the grace and peace that is only experienced through the Spirit of God. (Despite lots of questions, that’s the Peace That Passes Understanding clocking in for work).
Although my health story may not be yours, in many ways my faith story probably is. Nearly everyone at some point in life wonders, How did I get here? This is not who or what I had hoped or planned to be.
Whether from our own choices, ricocheted consequences of someone else’s decisions, or just living in a fallen world, we all find ourselves somewhere we never thought we would be.
If you are struggling along a detour, along a path you didn’t choose, I would love for you to join me at loriannwood.com. We’ll explore the tough questions involving worry, doubt, and control that you may have been afraid to ask. It’s easier when we don’t take these treks alone.